Workshops and Courses

The benefits of courses

Your guide to workshops and courses

In the main, workshops and courses are held to allow for education in a particular subject matter. They can be exploratory in scope or operate within highly defined areas, but they all have in common the idea of personal progress in some way. For example, workshops and course in music could be aimed at beginners to allow them to try their hands at several different instruments. More advanced courses might be for tuition into just one instrument to enable intermediate players to gain advanced skills. Both workshops and courses are conducted throughout the academic year, and they are run formally and informally. Some require attendees to pay in advance for their tuition, whereas some work on a voluntary payment basis. Others, still, are completely free. Workshops and courses cover every area of life, from religion to car mechanics.

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Where can you do workshops and courses?

Many workshops and courses tend to take place in public education institutions. This could, for example, mean that you are signing up for one at your local further education college. However, some people who run them have nothing to do with the public education system and simply hire a room in a school or college to run their course. Therefore these might be scheduled in the evening after the regular activities in the institution's school day have finished. Workshops may take place in a town hall, a library, an individual's home or even outside in a park; it all really depends on the subject matter of the specific course and what makes more sense in terms of space and types of activities involved.

Which workshops and courses help with spirituality?

A lot of people are interested in workshops and courses that will allow them to explore their spirituality in different ways. Local religious groups run many of these sorts of courses at churches, synagogues, temples and mosques. Obviously, they tend to focus on the side of spirituality which is most associated with the particular religion concerned. There are other options as well, such as courses that offer insights into Buddhism, for instance. Many people find that they can get into the spiritual side of life by signing up for a course of yoga classes, too, something that begins as a way of doing some kind of sports and physical activity, but which develops into a spiritual flowering.

What is the difference between workshops and courses?

Essentially, you can say that there are two ways in which a workshop actually differs from a course. First of all, a workshop tends to run over a shorter period, and usually, means just a day or an afternoon where you get together. Courses, on the other hand, will commonly mean a weekly commitment for a period of hours each time, stretching over six weeks or more. Secondly, courses are usually set up in a slightly more formal way, with a teacher-and-class format. Generally speaking, workshops tend to offer more opportunities for interaction across the group, even if they are still typically led by an educator or facilitator who leads the group and activities.

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Why are workshops and courses beneficial?

After leaving school, many people give up on education and technically stop learning new skills or advance on those already acquired. Although you can educate yourself on your own, without attending workshops and courses, signing up to one offers real-time interaction with an expert in a way in which reading a book or doing an online education programme cannot offer. In the main, they provide a social outlet, too, and thereby benefit people who attend them because of the like-minded people they meet. It can be a great way to meet new people and specifically those who share a common interest with you, as you have both chosen to attend the course or workshop.

Are online workshops and courses any good?

Workshops and courses are delivered both in-person and online these days. Many courses are ideally suited to online provision, especially if it is an arts-based course in which students will tend to read material on their own and produce essays after a small group discussion with a tutor. In some cases, where workshops and courses are about acquiring facts and knowledge from guided research and approved reading lists, this tutorial approach will be perfect for distance learning. However, workshops tend to be more hands-on and interactive. Those which require group interactions can still work online, though. Indeed, in some cases, workshops can even be improved by being held virtually because it means being a more diverse group of people together, possibly from all over the world. That said, technological developments have still not led to all workshops being possible online where physical skills need to be acquired.

Which workshops and courses do you need to be physically present for?

Of course, not all workshops and courses can be completed within a distance learning framework, either by submitting by email or through the postal service. Some courses require a physical presence for at least part of their educational content, even though the rest of it may be delivered through video presentations, live online interactions and other forms of so-called blended learning. In the main, where a motor skill needs to be gained, physical presence will be needed. Workshops and courses on trades, such as bricklaying or plumbing, necessarily require people to be present. Many healthcare workshops and courses will fall into the same category. In addition, workshops and courses in the leisure industry, especially those that deal with sports skills and training, need to be carried out with people there. Other examples of workshops and courses which need physical interaction include those run on certain laboratory skills or ones that focus on things like self-defence.

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What are theatrical workshops and courses?

There are two types of theatrical workshops and courses. The first is primarily focused on performance skills. Anything from circus skills to stand-up comedy shows is run as theatrical workshops and courses these days. As well as more formal workshops and courses that deal with acting, some will be more specific and hone in on particular aspects of stage and screen performance, such as vocal techniques and line delivery. There again, numerous courses are run all over the world in other areas of performance theatre, such as dance, mime artistry and even how to gain employment as an extra in films and TV shows. The other type of theatrical workshops and courses is to do with technical skills. These will deal with anything from stage lighting to audio recording on TV productions. Typically workshops and courses in these areas will differ in length. Some technical courses may last a year or more, whereas a theatrical workshop could last a day or two. Indeed, some might only be conducted over a matter of a few hours.

Why are workshops and courses good for employees?

Overall, staging workshops and courses for employees helps them enormously. This is because in-work workshops and courses allow members of staff to acquire new skills and brush up on others in a manner that is outside of their usual on-the-job training. For example, by taking a few team members in a department out of their usual place of work to attend a workshop or two, they will have sufficient time to discuss more aspects of their training and to try new things out without the fear of failure. Courses offer a similar benefit insofar as it is easier to focus on the learning when employees are away from their everyday workplace. Even if workshops and courses are delivered in the workplace, they should be bookended without the usual interruptions of a workload as they take place. Not only does this create a break from the norm for employees, but it helps to promote better learning outcomes too.

How can running workshops and courses help teachers?

Teachers who run workshops will often find that it breaks up their usual pedagogical style. For example, if a course is being delivered to a group of students or a class over an entire academic year, then some of the traditional delivery methods will be used again and again. What running a workshop instead of a traditional lecture or class can offer is the chance for the students to explore their ideas more creatively. The greater freedom that a workshop offers – many people talk about workshopping ideas, for example – means that not only can new approaches to work be developed by the students themselves, but their prior learning can be reinforced, as well. For example, if a maths teacher is running a course on trigonometry, then much of the theory may be delivered by referring to textbooks or using a whiteboard. However, a workshop could involve students thinking of real-life applications of this branch of geometry.

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What makes workshops and courses more effective?

There are a number of well-documented factors that make workshops and courses more effective. One of them is simply breaking up the progress that is being made by the learners involved to look at things from new angles or to try things out in a more experimental, less theoretical manner. This works in two ways. Firstly, it means that students are no longer so passive in receipt of their education. Simply getting up and moving around – as happens in many workshops – stimulates blood flow and, therefore, brain activity. Secondly, getting students to interact with one another on their course and to try new ideas out on each other helps them to gauge their own learning progress against others. Usually, this will benefit them by revealing just how much progress the group as a whole has made. In this sense, workshopping is effective for breaking new ground as well as for revision.

When do workshops and courses tend to go wrong?

If workshops and courses are not planned thoroughly, then it is more likely that those taking part will lose interest, and the desired learning outcomes do not come about. Of course, even the best-planned workshops and courses may not function well if students are predisposed to dislike them from the outset. As such, mandatory learning is often not suited to a workshop delivery style. If employees, for example, are required to undergo some training as a condition of their employment, it is less likely that they will enter into the spirit of the more experimental and freewheeling nature of a workshop. In such cases, more formal courses or even e-learning modules, which can be conducted when students choose, is more likely to be successful. Remember that in a workshop, the teacher's role is one of a facilitator, so those delivering them need to guide but also be able to step back and allow the event to unfold freely.

Can taking workshops and courses be good for your mental well-being?

There are some workshops and courses that are specifically aimed at producing a better mental state among attendees. Some will focus on things like workplace mindfulness, for example. In contrast, others may be delivered to try and address specific issues, such as eating disorders or coping mechanisms that help to prevent anxiety or even panic attacks. Overall, such courses will usually help by allowing attendees the chance to explore their current mental state and discuss what might be triggering them into less favourable mindsets. Some people will respond very well to gaining more information about their mental well-being, especially if they attend a course or workshop with people who suffer from similar problems as they do. This is where learning from the experience of others comes into play, something that group workshops are particularly effective at promoting.

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Workshops and courses in summary

Although some courses can be very general in their nature, most are focused on a particular aspect of education or training. The main difference between a formal educational course and a workshop does not relate to the subject matter but the style of educational delivery. Indeed, some workshops will be run within the context of a wider course to break the learning up or to offer new perspectives among students to come to the fore. As such, workshops differ from courses because they will allow students more freedom of expression than they might otherwise enjoy. Where students attend tutorials, as happens in many higher education courses, the small group discussions that might ensue between a few students and their teacher to discuss submitted work together can be seen as small workshops in effect.

Outside of purely academic circles, workshops tend to provide people with the chance to try things out without being criticised. This could be a new idea, a skill or the chance to interact with like-minded people, among other things. Given that workshops are more social than other types of education - especially distance learning courses, for example – they tend to be popular for creating a sense of camaraderie or even community among participants. This is the case whether a qualification might be obtained at the end of the workshop or not.

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